Holiday Drinks: Sparklers and ‘stickies’

Photograph by lily, Fotolia.com

Photograph by lily, Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

December is the month where get-togethers trend bubbly to pudding. Dry table wine will fill the festive middle but if ever there was a time of year where the libations bookend as sparkling and “sticky,” the holidays would be it.

“Stickies” is the term the Aussies use to describe sweet wines, also elsewhere referred to as pudding wines, off-dry wines or dessert wines. Every wine-producing region has a version. There is Ice Wine, Ice Cider, Port, Sherry, Tokaji, Vin Santo, Sauternes, Late Harvest, Auslese, Setubal, Banyuls, Sélection de Grains Nobles, Cote de Layon, Madeira, Quarts de Chaumes, Recioto and…the list goes on. A thimble full is often all that is needed to satisfy a postprandial, holiday craving.

I encourage every meal to start out on a sparkling foot. Nothing opens up the palate like a glass of fizz, or gets guests in the mood for the night ahead. A fluteful will suffice (or two if its Krug) to open the doors of vinous perception.

Here are seven sparklers and “stickies” to look for this holiday season.

Sparklers and "stickies"

The grape: Glera

The history: From Conegliano, in the province of Treviso.

The lowdown: The “Brut” designation means it’s dry, even for Prosecco. A skilled winemaker can elevate a Prosecco such as this beyond the realm of aperitif into courses unknown

The food match: Bertoldi’s Wild Boar Ragu & Gemelli Pasta

Masottina Brut Prosecco (297838, $16.95) jumps out with an effervescenza very few Prosecco display. Venetian hibiscus, creamy lemon marzolino and capped by a Trevisan chicory accent. Lovely stuff.  88

The grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris

The history: Okanagan fizz made in the Method Traditionnelle style

The lowdown: Champagne character comes as a result of spending 24 months sur-lie

The food match: B.C. Fanny Bay Oysters on the Half Shell

Blue Mountain Brut (206326, $27.95) walks faintly then explodes like a house on fire. A thick, embroidered hodgepodge of coal-driven, microbic complexity. Big tang for the buck, of citrus and pear tarte tatine.  89

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: An Ontario stalwart goes it alone with its first dated vintage fizz

The lowdown: Early harvested from Short Hills Bench estate vineyards and aged 54 months on the lees

The food match: Roast Salmon with Sweet and Sour Five-Spice Cranberry Sauce

Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Blanc De Blanc 2007 (315200, $44.95) combines the exceptional ’07 growing season’s rich fruit with early harvested acidity and extreme patience to result in one serious Ontario sparkling wine. A frothing tonic of citrus zest, baking apples, soda bread, cut grass and creamy grume. Long and true.  90

The grapes: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

The history: A house driven by its terroir, the limestone, sand, chalk and clay of the valley and the river Marne

The lowdown: Pink Champagne made by blending white and red wines

The food match: Colville Bay Oysters, shallot mignonette

Tarlant Rosé Brut Champagne (664680, $49.95) goes yeast in a large way and fresh-picked strawberry faintly. Influenced by hircine and Sparnacien marks, this pretty in pink sparkler will conjoin small bites and appetizers.  90 

The grapes: Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela, Rufete and Malvasia Preta

The history: Dates back to 1737, under the ownership of Sogrape since 1997

The lowdown: Single-vintage Port, bottled between the 4th and the 6th year thereafter. This one was bottled in 2011. Can be further aged but if you prefer young, accessible and cheaper, try Offley Port Ruby (293654, $13.95)

The food match: Upper Canada Cheese Company Niagara Gold

Offley Late Bottled Vintage Port 2007 (70086, $19.95) proves my theory that LBV is the most underrated, younger sibling sweety in the business. You really do get all the attributes of a Vintage Port from a well-designed LBV. The Offley gets figgy with it, with tons of spice, dried apricot and prune flavour. Full bodied, balanced and with the heat set to simmer.  90

The grapes: Tinta Madeira, Souzão, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cão

The history: Traditional Portuguese grapes used to make Port or Madeira

The lowdown: Pedroncelli the Zinfandel master pulls a rabbit out of the hat with this single vintage, Dry Creek Valley Port. There will be detractors but the value here is worth a look

The food match: Blue-Veined Cheeses, dried fruit

Pedroncelli Four Grapes Vintage Port 2006 (204487, 500 mL, $19.95) throws a gamut of Port aromas and flavours out of the glass. Christmas cake, dark chocolate, figs and mocha for sure. Further along in its evolution than its Porto counterparts so drink up.  89

The apples: Macintosh, Spartan, Lobo, Empire and Cortland

The history: Founded in 2007 by Daniel Brongo, Patricio Brongo and Francisco Antolino

The lowdown: High quality iced cider made from indigenous apple varietals in St-Joseph-Du-Lac

The food match: Brebichon Cheese from Les Fromages du Verger

Antolino Brongo Cryomalus Ice Cider 2009 (309492, 375 mL, $33.95) wakes me with a start as I have never nosed anything quite like this before. Like grape must and heated wax, like an herbal tea infusion, like apples in stereo. The aromas are closed in, as if in a conundrum and it is not until you swirl the viscous amber liquid in your mouth that it all comes together. Remarkable sticky that shows “the world is made of energy and the world is possibility.”  92

Good to go!

Holiday Gift Baskets

All Our Favourite Foods

Please send e-mails to mjg@aoff.com for more information

Holiday Cookies

We have a large variety of homemade, hand made and artisan items that go into the gift baskets prepared by All Our Favourite Foods. Gifts for individuals or families benefit from jars of tomato sauce canned here in our kitchen in September. Add in cheese straws and cracker bread by All The Best Fine Foods, Ice Wine chocolates and truffles by Chelsea Chocolates and hand made maple sugar novelties from Ninutik.

AOFF Basket

The heart of the matter comes from the labour of love from within our kitchen. You won’t find excessive packaging and shelf-life driven contents in our baskets. Immediate consumption is our goal, not storing away our goods to languish and be forgotten in a dark pantry. Surreptitiously acquired testimony is not required to conclude that a basket from All Our Favourite Foods is consumed within two days of receipt. We are confident that this is always the case.

gift basket

Our Cookies 

A carefully chosen and complimentary mix from chocolate chip, reverse chocolate chunk, espresso bean, gingerbread, ginger snaps, maple shortbread, oatmeal raisin, double chocolate oatmeal, painted trees and bells, biscotti in take-out boxes and colourful christmas confection.

8 Days of Chanukah

Dreidels, mandelbroit, chanukah gelt, silver kisses, chelsea chocolates truffles, dark chocolate almonds, latke chips, magen david painted cookies and lemon shortbread dreidels.

Winter Chocolates

76% dark chocolate bars, Chelsea Chocolates ice wine truffles, Ninutik maple sugar lollies & maple butter chocolates, cheese straws, painted macaroons, chocolate cookies and chocolate holiday shapes.

12 Days of Christmas

A carefully chosen and complimentary mix from assorted cookies, christmas candies, candy canes, roasted nuts, chocolate loonies, gingerbread people, decorated cinnamon sticks, pine cones, ornaments, painted and decorated christmas cookies, cracker bread, root vegetable chips, Chelsea Chocolates buttercreams and Ninutik maple sugar cubes.

Click here for pricing samples:

All Our Favourite Foods

All Our Favourite Foods gift baskets can be purchased by direct e-mail:
AOFF Baskets
If you wish to see more photos of our gift baskets and wine boxes, please let us know. We look forward to being a part of your gift giving in 2012. Here’s wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season and a prosperous 2013.
* Now accepting orders for delivery through Sun., Dec. 23rd.
(Deadline for orders Mon., Dec. 17th)
Delivery: Toronto $20.
Etobicoke, Mississauga, Woodbridge, Markham, Thornhill,
Richmond Hill & Scarborough $30.
Other Areas: UPS Rates.
Good to go!

Michael Godel
mjg@aoff.com

All Our Favourite Foods

A Grey Cup wine and a brand new Shiraz

<em>The Grey Cup is hoisted by the Toronto Argonauts after they defeated the Calgary Stampeders in the 100th CFL Grey Cup championship football game in Toronto, Ontario, November 25, 2012 (photo by Mark Blinch, Reuters).</em>

The Grey Cup is hoisted by the Toronto Argonauts after they defeated the Calgary Stampeders in the 100th CFL Grey Cup championship football game in Toronto, Ontario, November 25, 2012 (photo by Mark Blinch, Reuters).

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Congratulations to the Toronto Argonauts who as a group rode a perfectly obvious wave of team unity and hard work to victory in the 100th Grey Cup.

The 2012 edition of the double blue found their 15 minutes, future immortality and their place in the sun. So will a South African Shiraz, aptly named Place In The Sun. But first, a note on last night’s toast to an Argo win with a favourite Pinot Noir.

greycup A Grey Cup wine and a brand new Shiraz

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Blends grapes from every block of Maysara’s vineyard. According to ancient Persian legend, King Jamsheed was able to observe his entire realm by peering into his full wine goblet

The lowdown: Just announced, the ’09 Cuvée is #14 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list for 2012

The food match: Gnocchi, bell pepper tomato, garlic, padano parmesan, olive oil

Maysara Jamsheed Pinot Noir 2008 (127035, $21.90, was $33.95) works the McMinnville terroir with ruby-red clarity. Ripe cranberry, red pepper and pomegranate, bright and pungent as Muhamarra. Persian persistence, exotica-scented and in full control over its domain. On the card at Barque90

The grape: Shiraz

The history: Cape vineyards from the Zonnebloem stable

The lowdown: Under current consideration for best under $15 South African red at the LCBO

The food match: Seared Flank Steak, caramelized onion and garlic

Place In The Sun Shiraz 2010 (28088, $12.95) glows remarkably red. Sun-kissed streaks of red raspberry, sweet pepper and a subtle whiff of smoke. “Cause there’s a place in the sun where there’s hope for ev’ryone.” A definitive collection of grapes from premier vineyards, leaving little wonder this is great value for South African Shiraz.  88

Good to go!

It’s Black Friday but wine gifts come at a price

<em>Photograph by volff, Fotolia.com</em>

Photograph by volff, Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

It’s an American thing. Black Friday shopping deals will attract major crowds south of the border but in Canada, not so much. Studies show that only one in 10 Canadians will get off the couch and leave their basements for this day of discount shopping. The reverse will apply to Boxing Day.

Related – More from the VINTAGES November 24th, 2012 Release

Ontarians are just as likely to hit their local LCBO in search of wine gems for the coming holiday season. The current VINTAGES release is front loaded with lavish, iconic, red and “black” wines. The spotlight is on the big boys, especially Cabernet Sauvignon nearing and often breaching the centurial dollar mark. Behold eight more wine gems for your gift list.

The grapes: Corvina e Corvinone, Rondinella and Barbera

The history: From north-east of Verona, on the hill that separates Montorio from Valle d’Illasi

The lowdown: More substantial, almost unwieldy than most other Valpolicella in the price range

The food match: Coffee Brined Chicken

Musella Vigne Nuove Valpolicella Superiore 2009 (205757, $15.95) races forward pell-mell, spewing tar, ash and black tea exhaust. The fruit component is dark, black plum seeping in its own reductive juices. Chewy, persistent and gathering speed. Top quality normale Valpo.  89

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: Amounts to 88% Cab primarily sourced from vineyards located in the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Sonoma Valleys

The lowdown: Pseudo-supermarket brand gets it right in ’09. $20 Cab south of the 49th

The food match: Smoked Chorizo Sausage, brisket quinoa fritters

Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (990440, $22.95) is a solid deal, nothing overly serious, just the sum of all it should be from California and parts thereof. Currants, berries, mint, Cassis, roast beef and oak-driven milk chocolate fill this bottle. Packs enough stuffing for smoking.  88

The grape: Shiraz

The history: Oz outfit from the Great Dividing Range in the Grampians region of Victoria

The lowdown: Winemaker Dan Buckle fashions “cool climate” Shiraz from eastern granite slopes of Mount Langi Ghiran

The food match: Roast Duck, potato, orange, fennel, watercress salad

Mount Langi Cliff Edge Shiraz 2006 (287235, $28.95) rips off a ringing riff that teeters but never quite goes over the edge. Perhaps it still has not found what it’s looking for but it’s got Victoria’s ’06 funk. Spicy wood gets right into your nose then coffee, sodium, charcoal game and black currant all add notes. A very good price for a complex wine.  91

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: A legendary bottling returns to top form after a decade long falling out

The lowdown: Hyperbole like “epic,” “classic” and “best ever” surround this Napa Valley Cab

The food match: English Cut Braised Short Ribs, red wine reduction, red pearl onions

Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (193763, $99.95) is a flat out brilliant composition by the voice of one who once “traded love for glory.” This Cab reverts back to its singer-songwriter, Napa Valley pioneering form. The ’08 is a crooning balladeer intent to hold out its best in a graceful lucubration of layered, dark fruit, restrained restlessness and a vision of long life. Put the Dunn away and look to be rewarded 15+ years on with as good a California Cabernet as you will ever taste.  96

The grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Counoise

The history: The house that Jacques Perrin built is the most famous in Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The lowdown: Can’t say I’ve ever been this blown away by such a young Beaucastel

The food match: Braised Veal Brisket, smashed parisienne potato, brussels sprouts, truffle oil

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 (711317, $89.95) enters no confected, over-extracted or OTT danger zones. The most floral Beaucastel, a doffing of Stoechas Avignon and the omnipresent Rhône garrigue. Persimmon and lavender share time imparting the wine with fumes from les galets roulés of the argilo-calcaireous vineyard beds. Basic hedonism here from such an extraordinary, complex and balanced blend.  95

The grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc

The history: Arguably the most iconic Cab-based Super Tuscan from “the place of many stones”

The lowdown: Down $7 in price from vintages going back to ’05, this ’09 has scored as high as 98 (James Suckling)

The food match: Grilled Bisteca Fiorentine (Tuscan-style Porterhouse Steak)

Sassicaia 2009 (480533, $179.95) the raven brunette is anything but sappy or syrupy yet is impossibly viscous. Hints at ripe berries growing in the crags of maritime gravel and the most expected hits of sanguine, animal musk. A huge wine in the making, the adolescent hunter Sassicaia off-roads up a steep incline to go tell it on the mountain of tannin. Disappears into parts unknown and will only reappear as a mature adult. Look to 2025 and it may say “the perspective to say the very least, changes only with the journey.”  96

The grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot

The history: Tenuta dell’Ornellaia was founded in Bolgheri (1981) and only Massetto, “wink-wink, say no more,” is a more famous Super Tuscan

The food match: Grilled Bisteca Panzanese (Bolgheria-style Porterhouse Steak)

Ornellaia 2009 (722470, $189.95) is more approachable than the unparalleled 1998. A silky smooth and velvety texture puts super-ripe fruit at the forefront. While that ’98 rocked my world, this vintage offers immediate gratification, less dominating hard lines and edges. The balance is impeccable but the acidity is tempered, like the finest chocolate. The window is open now, though it may soon close, to drink beautifully for the next five years.  94

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: In a class of two (along with Shafer’s Hillside Select) of Napa Cabernet neither garagiste nor Barnett, Harlan Estate or Screaming Eagle

The lowdown: Certainly not an act in search of a circus, the ’08 Insignia demands a star’s salary

The food match: Bison Rib-Eye, king mushroom, juniper and thyme demi-glace

Joseph Phelps Insignia 2008 (710400, $224.95) teases with immediate gratification then turns inward upon itself to hide from a volcano bursting of hot lava. The stoic resistance keeps the Insignia safe from the fiendish, dark mark mountain of UFO tannin. “A real rock and roll molest.” Checking out the wine’s black hue in the raised glass is a sight to behold. The pitch conceals a deep well of pure raspberry distillation, roasted meat, yew and rosemary. The wine’s lines are like architectural strokes of genius, currently too hot to handle.  94

Good to go!

See the wine for the money

<em>Photograph by NLo, Fotolia.com</em>

Photograph by NLo, Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

So much detail goes into crafting quality wines. Dedicated vineyard management, precise and timely picking of fruit, crushing, pressing, racking and fermenting. Not to mention blending, fining, filtering, aging and choosing closure. The winemaker has more decisions to scrutinize over than a Blue Jay’s general manager.

Related – more from the VINTAGES November 24th, 2012 Release

As a consumer you may find yourself caught like a deer in the headlights, bound by brands you blindly return to again and again. Or you might be lost in the details, challenged and unable to see the forest for the trees. When it comes to seeking value it can be difficult to sift through the lees and the slag. The key is to let the makers deal with the ABC’s, sidestep minutiae and focus on the big picture. Step out of your comfort zone. See the wine for the grapes, for the money. Here are five current release whites that demonstrate more than just the sum of their parts.

White wines for the money

The grape: Moschofilero

The history: From a Greek winery located in the heart of Arcadia, in the ‘Polyampelos Mantinia’

The lowdown: Organically grown and produced in a state-of-the-art facility

The food match: Greek Chicken Kebabs, red onion, oregano, tzatziki

Domaine Spiropoulos Mantinia 2011 (710970, $14.95) takes a salt bath in crystalline, Aegean waters. Honey, manna, aconite blossom and marmalade scents give way to a stoney, tangy soupçon sprinkled with feta. Crisp and pure Moscho.  89

The grape: Sauvignon Blanc

The history: Two years ago Richard Kershaw took over vinification from legendary Western Cape winemaker Mike Dobrovic

The lowdown: We’re definitely not in the Loire anymore

The food match: Poached Chicken Breast in Dark Chicken Demi-Glace

Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (933424, $18.95) defines the saying plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose for South African SB. Unchained, unique, woody, herbal and welling with gregarious acidity. Brilliant SB actually. “Non-stop talker, what a rocker!”   89

The grape: Riesling

The history: Made by the Eden Valley terroir master, Louisa Rose

The lowdown: Find me a better Aussie Riesling under $20 and I will buy a boatload

The food match: Pork Fried Rice, sambal oelek, kecap manis

Pewsey Vale Riesling 2011 (686600, $19.95) shimmers an iridescent emerald-green on gold patina. Cracks like a whip straight in your face with lemon, lime and slate than lowers a sledgehammer of petrified wood. Snake-like Sasak fruit tang and acidity “goes dancin’ in,”  “builds that power” and lingers long after its skin has been shed.  91

The grape: Riesling

The history: The Berres family is recorded to have resided and worked in the vineyards of Ürzig since the year 1510

The lowdown: Ürzig and Erden are famous for their red slate soils and singular rock outcroppings that retain heat and concentrate the typical herb-spice of the wines. These are the only villages in the Mosel allowed to replant without grafting, as phylloxera was never able to penetrate the rock barriers.

The food match: Hu Tieu My Tho Noodles, shrimp, pork, baby bok choy

C.H. Berres Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett 2009 (207274, $19.95) certainly represents its number 16 spot on the periodic table and bursts from the Bunsen Burner with wafts of coconut, lime and pear. Chemistry in an Erlenmeyer, puffing carbon smoke, petrol fumes and giving way to a lively palate of apple and glucose. Goes smoking, dry ice at the finish. Love this.   90

The splurge

The grapes: Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Gewurztraminer

The history: The most famous Ontario white blend

The lowdown: Low yields, late picking, a winemaker’s (J-L Groux) tour-de-force

The food match: Roasted chicken with Jerusalem artichoke & lemon

Stratus White 2009 (660704, $44.20) is a vision of glittering gold, an atomic L’Européenne white blend that reminds me of the Loire. The 31% Sauvignon Blanc stands out with green peas and pepper berries. Waxy yellow apple (Semillon), peach blossoms (Viognier), elemental viscosity (Gewurz) and buttery caramel (Chardonnay) all come into play. Tough acidity and autoroute length look to extend the life of this iconic Niagara-on-the-Lake white.  91

Good to go!

A toast to the endangered Twinkie

Photograph by AP Photo/Interstate Bakeries Corporation via PRNewsFoto

as seen on canada.com

It was many moons ago that Rachel Sa challenged me to post a tasting note on a not-so Simpsons inspired D’Oh wine. Imagine my delight to find her column re-appear on a sunny Sunday in the form of a spiritual ode and lament to the never to be inhaled again Hostess Twinkie.

No prompting needed this time around. Even the most serious and dedicated wine geek has a soft spot, whether they admit it or not, for packaged sweets. If Twinkies are on the verge of extinction, do they not deserve a proper toast? The issue is that the iconic sponge cake with the synthetic cream filling is a tough pairing for the fermented grape, as are other sugary snacks. Dessert wines do not work. The sugars compound and the cloying factor flies off the charts. Cake, sugar and laboratory invention is a difficult match to dry, savoury and tannic substances.

Look for wines that hint at sacchariferous behaviour but are actually of a dry table sensibility. White blends and Rosés first come to mind but some fresh and fruity reds will also do the trick. And I would be dissing 82 years of snack service were I not to include some bubbles for the Twinkieapocalypse. Here are four current releases to wash down the last of the great Twinkies.

Four current releases to wash down the last of the great Twinkies.

The grapes: Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Chardonnay Musqué

The history: The aromatic white blend is becoming a signature Niagara wine style

The lowdown: Nobody does it cheaper or more effectively than wizard winemaker and potions master Richie Roberts

The food match: What else? The endangered Hostess Twinkie

Fielding Fireside White 2011 (303040, $13.95) will lead you to dance a firelight waltz. The pale, seemingly sweet nectar aromatically reminds me of fun and fizzy Moscato D’Asti. Gorgeous and grapey as if fountaining through the press, tropical blossoms blooming. Like the snack itself, the blend is “a tune from your childhood and a soft yellow moon,” even if it’s waning.  87

The Grapes: Gamay and Cabernet Franc

The history: Pink discrimination is a thing of the past

The lowdown: Ontario Rosé is extremely versatile so why not pair it with packaged confection or  match it as a sweet and savoury apéritif

The food match: Strawberry and Fior Di Latte Bruschetta

Featherstone Rosé 2011 (117861, $14.95)  stops just short of day-glo in a pastel, strawberry hue. The ever-bearing, mild candy fruit gives way to a salty, savoury middle and finishes with subtle yet pungent pink grapefruit. Vastly improved pinky.  88

The grape: Cabernet Franc

The history: The Saumur-Champigny appellation was created in 1957

The lowdown: Though Cab Franc has been cultivated for centuries in the area, this is the modern Loire in action

The food match: Hush Puppy Hot Lips Pocketbook Rolls

Domaine Langlois-Château Saumur-Champigny 2010 (7179, $17.95) is cracker correct Cabernet Franc befitting the appellation’s modern directive. A pepper electric, beet red, currant current runs through it, like a rolling river of stones. Sweet and sour hot lips, cinnamon spicy and playing a lick in open G. Rock ‘n roll Cabernet Franc.   88

The Splurge

The grapes: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

The history: Classic 50/50 blend from an outfit that dates back to 1811 and makes a boatload of fizz

The lowdown: Excellent quality in under $50 Brut

The food match: French Fries, followed by Twinkies

Charles De Cazanove 1er Cru Brut Champagne (299750, $43.95) shows off a very distinct ripe, golden delicious apple aroma and a white grapefruit twang. The pettilement, subliminal tinkling of bubbles comes from a persistent, fine mousse. Toasty seltzer, dry and dusty with just a hint of poutine. A charmer and potential lady killer.  90

Good to go!

Beaujolais Nouveau: your new BF wines

People attend the official launch of the 2012 Beaujolais Nouveau wine in the centre of Lyon early November 15, 2012 (photograph by Robert Pratta, Reuters).

The annual Beaujolais Nouveau release occurs on the third Thursday of November. Yesterday. Don’t panic, the Novello have yet to sell out. What began as a Euro tradition side by side with the more serious, Burgundian Paulée now includes the gleaning of Ontario fruitage. Wine rushed from the presses in premature excitement.

To some, the BN represents a window to the current vintage’s future, to others a curiosity show. Then there is the notion that the young wines are a feminine proposition, not unlike Rosé. While not exactly a girl’s best friend, a boyfriend or any other bf for that matter, they do represent a barely fermented rite of passage.

I tasted through 10 BN’s at the LCBO lab yesterday afternoon. France was afflicted with a calamitous 2012 for grape growing so expectations were low for the Nouveau. Conversely, Ontario was blessed with a hot, arid and promising vintage. Italy may have fared best. So which wines reign supreme in 2012?

One sample smelled like a gym locker. Another like sheep waste. One made me imagine candy laced with gasoline. Keep that one away from the children. These three samples nearly made me cry sweet tears of joy. Made me smile.

Photograph by Wayne Cuddington, Ottawa Citizen

Catalans Primeur Syrah Merlot 2012 (220533, $9.95) goes to extreme purple lengths to please. The Merlot shuns green notes and instead adds a balancing, candied quotient. Dry, herbaceous and savoury befitting its Roussillon roots. Fun for $10.  86

Negrar Novello Del Veneto 2012 (899955, $9.95) sports a slight reductive and waxy Rosé-like nose but this I can handle. Citrus and pepper reminiscent of a Syrah/Viognier dichotomy meets pressed apple and grape. Very quaffable Novello.  87

Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages Nouveau 2012 (113266, $14.95) is the most serious of the lot, even if it doesn’t have to be. Richer extraction, fruit fortitude and revelatory acidity. I do note a hint of merde but also mineral and elemental satisfaction. Mission accomplished.  88

Good to go!